Financial literacy is an essential life-skill, and financial education has become an important policy priority as a complement to financial consumer protection, inclusion and prudential regulation.
Although awareness of gender differences in financial literacy and their potential implications remains quite low, tests of financial knowledge around the world have shown that women have lower levels of financial knowledge than men on basic financial concepts such as understanding inflation, the time value of money and the effect of compound interest rates.
The chart below shows that test scores of women are somewhat below those of men in many countries.
Figure 1 - Women have lower levels of financial knowledge than men
Source: OECD/INFE Financial Literacy Survey 2010, and Atkinson and Messy (2012)
Women are also more likely than men to say they do not know the answer to a financial knowledge question rather than attempt to answer it, and have been shown to have lower levels of confidence in both their knowledge and their ability with complex financial issues. They are also less likely than men to make long-term financial plans.
Overall women’s level of financial literacy may not be up to the challenges they face in achieving financial well-being. Addressing the financial literacy of women and girls through targeted financial education initiatives is therefore gaining global relevance.
Empowering women through financial awareness and education
This working paper reviews the literature on gender differences in financial literacy to better understand their causes and consequences, as well as possible policy responses. In this document, research carried out to collect further evidence and case studies may help countries interested in the development and implementation of financial education programmes targeting women’s most vulnerable sub-groups.
G20 Declaration supporting gender equality
G20 Leaders meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico, in June 2012 recognised the need for women to gain access to financial services and financial education and asked the OECD International Network on Financial Education (INFE) – together with the Global partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI) and the World Bank – to identify the barriers they may face (See G20 Leaders Declaration).
In this respect, the OECD INFE is carrying out significant work to help policy makers and relevant stakeholders to understand and address women’s needs in financial education.
Gender equality in education, employment and entrepreneurship
Prepared as part of the OECD's gender equality initiative, this Report on Gender Equality in Education, Employment and Entrepreneurship informs, shares policy experiences and good practices, and helps governments promote gender equality. The report also addresses gender differences in financial literacy and how financial education can contribute to women’s financial empowerment (chapter 2.6).